Black Sludge Coming From Ralston Taps Has Residents Fighting Mad

Wednesday, May 6th 2015, 6:35 pm
By: Tess Maune

What's pouring from the faucets some days in one Green Country town is so dark, it looks like tar.

Still, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality says it's safe to drink. But in Ralston, people are even quitting their jobs over the sludge and the fall out.

What looks more like oil spitting from the bathroom sink, is Ralston's city water.

“You can't drink that stuff like that,” resident Connie Bennett said.

To show how bad it can be Connie Bennett bottled some in a Mason jar while her daughter, Mae Shadowen, took cell phone video.

“It makes you mad,” Shadowen said. “It stains anything it touches, clothing, countertops and burns your skin if you get it on you, it's like a chemical burn.”

Shadowen said the family doesn't drink water from the tap anymore, they rely on bottled water for everything here lately.

“My grandmother, she can't do laundry. She can't take a bath. She can't come in here and get a drink of water when she wants to,” Shadowen, who lives in Fairfax, said.

The DEQ said the black grime is manganese -- and any reddish water has iron in it.

According to the DEQ, minerals shouldn't cause any health problems, but with enough, the two could break down chlorine and interfere with killing bacteria.

“Yeah it's a problem, I know it is,” city councilor Dave Rogers said.

Rogers is a city councilor who had to step in as the town's acting water operator because he says all the water workers quit.

“Nobody wants to listen to the gripes and complaints of the people,” he said.

The DEQ said the minerals in the water, at this point, are an aesthetics issue, and there are no plans to treat it. But the agency investigated multiple complaints of low water pressure and has ordered the city come up with a solution to repair the problem.

Rogers said replacing the 100-year-old tower and water lines would do the job, but that is a tall order for a town of less than 350 residents.

Reporter: “Why can't you get new water lines?”
Rogers: “Money. It's that simple.”

He said it would cost hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. So the temporary fix is flushing the lines, he said, which is stirring up all the minerals and sending them to sinks all over Ralston.

“We have the right in this country to have clean water,” Bennett said.

The city said it's working with an engineering firm to come up with a plan for new water lines, but with the high cost, the city said it would need to be awarded grant money before any work could begin.